Cultural Variations in Attachment

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  • Created by: joe
  • Created on: 03-04-13 21:54

Basic differences between cultures

Collectivist cultures:

  • Emphasis is on group effort 
  • Focus on interpersonal development of infants
  • More favourable reaction to obedience and social behaviour
  • Less anti-social behaviour

Individualist culture:

  • Emphasis is on personal achievement (e.g. USA)
  • Focus on developing initiative in infants
  • Mothers react favourably to independence
  • More anti-socail behaviour

Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988)

Aim: To investigate the reported rates of different infant attachment types in a range of cultures.

Procedure: Meta-analysis, using information reported in other studies and combined this data to produce comparison across cultures. The selected studies had all:

  • Used the strange situation
  • Observed only mother-infant pairs
  • Classified infants into one of the attachment types A,B or C

The choice of studies also excluded any identifying special groups of children, such as those with down's syndrome, any with less than 35 pairs and any using children over the age of 2 years old. The total included 32 samples from 8 countries and represented 1990 strange situation classification.


The data was analysed in 3 ways:

  • To see whether, within each sample, there was a pattern in the distribution of the children over different attachment types
  • To compare the extent of intra- and inter-cultural differences in terms of overall variation.
  • To evaluate similarities and differences in the profiles of samples (i.e. whether the proportion of A, B and C classifications were similar).

In all samples from all countries with the exception of one sample from Germany, type B was the model attachment type. This illustrates one of the similarities between cultures. 

 However, significant differences were found between the distributions of insecure attachments. For example, in Western cultures the dominant insecure type is anxious-avoidant (Type A), whereas in non-Western cultures it is anxious-resistant (Type C), with China being the only exception, as anxious/avoidant and anxious/resistant were distributed equally.

One of the most significant findings was that there is 1.5 times greater variation within cultures thanbetween cultures. Eg: the 2 Japanese studies. One found no anxious-avoidant but a high proportion of anxious-resistant. The other found a pattern much more like the


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